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RBR Tailgating: Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Sauce

Let’s turn this hate week up to eleven.

On March 18,1862 the 121st Regiment of the Tennessee Militia was formed in Madison County.

According to Wikipedia, “’Units of the Confederate States Army’ by Joseph H Crute, Jr. contains no history for this unit.” Not being a Civil War Buff, I can’t state with any certainty that mister Crute is an author of any authority, but I can state that having gone to several impressive looking web sites that purport to collect information on Confederate and Union armies that they all report variations of “No data available” on the exploits of the 121st.

Their participation in any skirmishes has either been lost or went unrecorded. Whatever victories they may have won or defeats they may have suffered are forgotten.

Again, per Wikipedia, they were “Organized… for local defense,” so it is possible that they saw no action at all. Regardless of their degree of participation, we know that the 121st Regiment was on the losing side of a doomed cause. That their part in the Confederate failure isn’t known may be some small comfort to their departed souls.

There is a present day Tennessee unit marching under a “banner” that bears the designation 121st, but rather than a battle flag, they rally around what appears to be a 64 gallon trash can with “HTB Team 121” emblazoned on the side. My guess is that by the end of December this 121st from the Volunteer State will desperately wish for the anonymity enjoyed by that of the one from 1862, but I doubt they’ll get it.

As you know doubt know, The Trash Can is the current totem of the 121st iteration of the Tennessee Volunteers football team (“HTB” is apparently an initialism of “Hunt The Ball.”) designed and approved by the only people in the SEC not aware that opposing fan bases have mocked orange clad Vol’s supporters for their highway prison litter detail get-ups since the world changed from black and white to color in the late fifties or early sixties.

This team entered the year burdened by unrealistic expectations. The previous year’s squad achieved something no football team ever had before. It’s unfair, irrational even, to expect the 2017 version to equal their predecessors, but like it or not there was from day one an albatross around their necks, a target on the backs of the reigning Life Champions.

They will not be forgotten, not in certain circles.

Tyrie Cleaveland’s last second touchdown against an incomprehensively positioned secondary will forever be sliced into the pre Tennesse vs. Florida game hype video on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium’s jumbotron.

The Georgia faithful will pass down in lore September 30th’s 41 - 0 blowout, the first time that Bulldogs shut out the Vols in Knoxville since 1923.

More of interest to us, betting historians will keep the date October 21, 2017 handy, as they have October 22, 2011 up till this week to note the largest Las Vegas line favoring Alabama in series history.

I don’t like to get cocky about games. I don’t take wins for granted. But people who risk large amounts of cash on the outcome of football games are of the opinion that if the Tide were to spot the Vols five touchdowns, by the end of the day Tennessee is likely to pull off a one point victory. Since we are unlikely to spot the Vols five touchdowns…

No disrespect to Butch Jones, but this is five years into his tenure and the product he’s put out is not what was expected by the trash picking criminal faithful. They have a great running back, but the rest of the team is just not playing up to expectations given the recruiting rankings. (Bless their five star hearts.)

Of course, they could pull off the upset. Anything can happen on the field. That would be history they’d love to have recorded, but the good money says they lose by 34. I’m hoping it’s by more.

This week’s recipe was cooked in my kitchen, but it’s easily assembled and grilled at a tailgate as long as a bit of preparation is done at home the day before.

The loin itself is great, but to me the star is the sauce. If you are at all a fan of blue cheese try this sauce once and you’ll be putting it on all manner of meats.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

- 1 ½ lb. pork tenderloin

- 3 button, baby bella, or similar mushroom caps, minced

- ½ cup yellow onion, diced

- ½ cup walnuts, crushed

- ¼ cup dried apricots, diced

- 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

- honey

- ½ cup blue cheese, crumbled (plus more as needed)

- 1 cup heavy cream

- 1 cup dry white wine (plus more if needed)

- olive oil

- salt

First make the stuffing.

Cut an inch from one end of the tenderloin and mince it roughly and salt.

Sauté the onion over medium high heat until translucent. Add the minced meat and brown. When browned, add the walnuts,mushrooms, garlic (if using), and thyme.

Heat while stirring for about two minutes and then add ½ cup of white wine.

After three or four minutes the wine should have mostly evaporated. When it has, remove from heat, check for salt, then pour the stuffing into a mixing bowl and let cool. Once cooled, stir in the dried apricot. If not using right away, the stuffing can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.

I’ve read repeatedly that making a lengthwise hole in a tenderloin is easy to do. Using the end of a wooden spoon, gently press into the meat until you have bored through to the other side. That’s all well and good and as I’ve read, easy to do. The problem is getting a hole with a large enough diameter to actually stuff.

I prefer to cut slightly more than halfway through and lay the tenderloin out like a hot dog bun, pack in my stuffing, and then save the day with some handy dandy kitchen twine.

Either way works well.

Next make the sauce. Pour ½ cup of white wine into a small sauce pan over medium to medium high heat. Reduce the wine by half, add the cup of heavy cream and continue cooking until things start to bubble and steam, reduce heat to a simmer and let it go for another two minutes. You may have to stir every so often to keep the cream from bubbling over, so don’t wander off.

After two minutes, remove from heat and stir in the blue cheese. If the flavor isn’t strong enough after adding the proscribed ½ cup, feel free to add more to taste.

The sauce should be fairly thin at this point as it cools, and you want to serve it only slightly warmed, it will thicken. If you don’t plan on using it within the next thirty minutes, it will keep overnight in the refrigerator. Just bring have a little white wine on hand when you reheat to thin it back out a little.

If you are cooking in the kitchen, add a few glugs of olive oil to a skillet over high heat, liberally salt the meat, and then sear the tenderloin on all sides. Remove from the stove top and put the skillet in an oven pre-heated to 425˚ (assuming you have an oven safe skillet - if not, or if you are unsure, transfer the tenderloin to a rimmed baking sheet and put that.) Cooking times will vary depending on the thickness of your pork loin, but I set my oven on a 10 minute timer, checked the internal temperature, and the back in the oven for two minute intervals until my thermometer read 145˚. It took me 14 minutes of cooking time.

If you are grilling it, keep an eye on things. Everyone’s heat will be a little different and everyone will know their equipment. We are aiming for medium rare to medium depending on your taste. You can reheat the sauce in a small sauce pan directly on the grill, thinning with wine as needed.

Brush the tenderloin with a thin coat of honey and put it back in the oven or on the grill for thirty seconds.

Let rest for five minutes.

Slice into rounds and top with a generous amount of blue cheese sauce. I lightly ladled it on for the picture below so you could see the nice stuffed middles, but as soon as the pictures were done I drowned the pork in sauce before eating.

I wasn’t planning on writing about this, but one of those pictures reminded me of a cigar.

The winners of the Third Saturday in October game openly receive an illegal NCAA benefit in the form of a cigar to be smoked in the locker room. They apparently self report this violation to the powers that be.

I really like this tradition. It says to the college football world, albeit in a small and extremely unlikely to provoke any repercussions, that the rivalry is beyond what the rest of you are involved in. While the game is played on the field and overseen by the NCAA, the win is greater than football. It’s a victory beyond the scope of athletics. Your rules don’t apply.

Of course, it’s hard to call something a rivalry when one side has rolled off ten straight wins. Though the week leading up to the TSinO will always be hate week, the clash is in danger of becoming just another game unless things get more competitive. The Victory Cigar is in danger of being just a cigar.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.